LESSONS FOR LIFE
Bhushan Patwardhan, vice chancellor, Symbiosis International University, introduces innovation while bridging the gap between ancient and modern education systems
In April 2011, Bhushan Patwardhan made an important career change and took over as vice chancellor of a young university keen to grow and excel fast. “The vision of Symbiosis International University (SIU) is to be the preferred destination for all who aspire to excel. In next five years, I want to make SIU one of the top universities in Asia where focus is on developing global citizens and not just generating graduates,” says Patwardhan.
Keeping pace with the university’s vision and growth plans. Patwardhan brought about changes and has already seen positive results. “When I took over, Symbiosis was a conglomeration of several autonomous institutions of excellence. However, there were compartments; there was no unity in diversity, the real symbiosis of minds was missing, the system needed effective overarching leadership and the focus of education was more on placements and not much on research and innovation. My intense interactions with faculty has resulted in the change of mindset and now SIU is emerging as multidisciplinary university. Other achievements including establishment of interdisciplinary research clusters, establishment of chair professorships and adding new disciplines”.
The growth plans don’t end here. This dynamic vice chancellor is now focused on attracting more talent, building a research culture, knowledge generation, wealth creation and social mobilisation. Patwardhan’s vision for Symbiosis International University can be broadly divided into five categories, internationalisation, interdisciplinary, integration, innovation and integrity.
“My strategy are simple; attract best talents, create vibrant grounds great minds, creating ideas and inspire faculty and students to embrace research, innovation and entrepreneurship. I believe that institutions of excellence are built not only by strong bricks but also by committed people. My strategy is to inculcate and strengthen research culture from an under graduate level.”
Patwardhan has been part of the Indian education system for over twenty years and has noted changes in this period. He feels, “India needs more holistic, flexible and vibrant universities where research and innovative teaching becomes an integral part of every curriculum and where knowing, learning and doing go hand in hand. Addressing issues of skills, equity and excellence are very crucial. Giving best and equal opportunities to millions of bright young students from different parts of India and increasing the scale without compromising quality are quite crucial.”
Patwardhan’s education policy to meet today’s challenging standards goes back to the Indian education system in ancient times. “Indian traditions have advocated four levels teaching, Adhidi is the first step when information is just absorbed; second step is Bodha that involves deeper understanding and gaining knowledge; third step is Acharana meaning practice and the forth step is Pracharana meaning preaching. Every faculty member and student must go through all the phases sequentially.” These steps reiterate the importance of enquiry and investigation that are major strengths of the Indian education system.
Discussing faculty members, Patwardhan feels that, “retaining and attracting competent faculty remains a major challenge. While various regulations on qualifications of faculty are necessary, some degree of flexibility is needed to attract and retain faculty. During my tenure of six months I have appointed over 100 new faculty members”.
As an educationist, Patwardhan’s advice to young students is to, “think, ideate, experience, explore, learn, play, work and get motivated to meet the challenges to shape your career and future. I hope you will take full advantage and meet the challenges offered in this new exciting world.”